Active Reading with Kindle

kindleAs many students and families are taking advantage of Kindle Unlimited subscriptions for pleasure reading, the Kindle App can also be used to develop close reading skills.  Close reading is more than just annotating or highlighting a text. Close reading is active learning. Many kinesthetic  learners struggle with reading because they are not involved in the reading. These learners thrive with printed texted where they have the freedom to doodle, circle, underline and highlight. However, as we move to digital age and  paperless learning, where does that leave these students?

 To assist these students and all students, let’s take a look at a few solutions for digital close reading.  Blog writer, Dave Stuart, Jr. addresses the need for purposeful annotations. Students should have a reason for annotating their reading. As they read, the goal is for them to be learning from the reading during the process, asking questions, such as “what else was happening during this period in History?” or “What does action say about the person’s character?’ Perhaps students do not understand a word or phrase, or wonder why the author included a specific detail. Furthermore, as students are reading a text, they should know what is expected after the reading. Will they be analyzing the character, comparing a written piece to a multimedia presentation? Is the purpose to find connections between two historical accounts or compare a historical event to a current event?  

Given a purpose for reading, students will engage more effectively. By using active reading strategies, students are writing down their ideas, questions and thoughts. According to research in the science of learning by Richard Mayer, it is important to limit cognitive load.IMG_0137 Which means that the brain can only focus on a limited concepts at a time. By annotating during the reading process, their minds are free to think about the next part of the text.  When students have completed the reading, they should have a few thoughts from each page to guide their thinking, reflection, or response to the reading, These notes do not need to be lengthy, just enough to spark their memory.

Use the Kindle App for Active Reading

Watch for more posts on Google and adobe solutions.

50 States Google Map project

the_50_states_projectAs a interdisciplinary coordinator, I enjoy working with teachers and parents to use Google Apps for student learning. Integrating technology into teaching and learning provides the opportunity to reach higher order thinking skills as students engage in challenging and creative tasks (King, Goodson, & Rohani, 2009).

Most American students are tasked with the challenge of memorizing the 50 states and their capitals. Currently this is a fifth grade standard, but I have known of students as early as 1st grade beginning to learn these facts. However, if you ask most 20 year old adults to name 15 states and their capitals, you might be surprised at the answers. Here is a fun way for students to learn these facts, while engaging higher order thinking skills as they generate their own map and produce travel itinerary to visit capitals across the nation.


  • Computer
  • Google Account
  • Apps used – Google Maps, Google Sheets


Students will start by going to to see a list of states and capitals, then type them into a spreadsheet.  Additionally, students should research other details such as the Admission Day for each state, or a famous author/artist who lives/lived in the state. This is a wonderful opportunity to personalize the activity to peak student interest. Maybe the student is interested in theme parks, gardens, or sports. This information will be entered into the spreadsheet. In fact, up to 50 columns of detailed information can be included. Here are step by step instructions for entering this information into a spreadsheet.

After they have created the spreadsheet they will open the My Maps app to import all the information into a customizable map.  Once they have imported the details into their map, they can add images, customize the pins, etc.  Use the following instructions for creating the map.

To make this activity extend into math, ask students to create a travel itinerary. They can choose to travel by plane, car, bike or other means of locomotion. The more the students interact with the states and capitals, seeing them on the map, talking about them and learning about them, the more likely they are to remember them after they have taken a test.

Consider having students listen to the states and capitals songs while they are working on the project. Or for the ultimate technology creation, have the students screen cast their map with the states. Use one of many free web based screencasting tools, such as the Snag it Chrome Extension or Screencastify. Remember that the YouTube editor allows for quick edits and background music.


“Higher Order Thinking Skills – Center for Advancement of …” 2009. <>

Give the gift of Code

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Give your child the gift of a second language. No, not an oral language, but a written language: Computer Programming. We know that we live in a world surrounded by technology. And whatever field our children choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and less students are studying it than a decade ago.

How can you begin giving this gift to your child? By joining in on Hour of Code. Across the nation, during Computer Science Education week (Dec. 7 – 13), students are learning the beginning of computer programing in a fun and engaging manner. and Khan Academy have provided a wealth of resources for students from age 4 to 104 to learn the basics of programming.

The activities range from games to drawing. For instance, your student can explore Minecraft through code by helping Alex cross a river. Your child can learn to program droids and create a Star Wars game in a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars. If you daughter still sings, “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen, she might enjoy helping Elsa and Anna draw magical snowflakes (my 7 year old loved this). Maybe, you still love Angry Birds, you can learn some of the programming behind this popular game.

To get started go to to sign up. I have provided a set of step by step slides to help guide you. At, they have created levels, such as drag and drop options designed for elementary students and there are Java Script options for older students. Even the older students have the drag and drop feature, they just have the opportunity to add more information.
If your curiosity has been peaked, check out these inspiration videos featuring prominent computer industry leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and Kevin Systrom from Instagram.

What does it look and sound like when friends or siblings try it out? Watch these two videos short videos as kids explore Observe the collaboration, discussion, and celebration as they engage in learning.



Make the experience a memorable one. Grab a laptop, Chromebook, or tablet, sit on the couch or lay on the floor. Sit with your child and participate right along with them. Here are some questions you can ask along the way to help cement the learning.

Q: How did you know to do that?

Q: What made you try using that (block, number, color)?

Q: What would happen if that was repeated?

Q: Computer programming involves language. What is one of the “verbs” (command)?

Just like in language we have grammar, in programming it is called syntax. There is even punctuation. Parameters are like adjectives and adverbs. Commands are verbs. Parenthesis, semicolons, spaces and commas all have an important part. The activities for the younger students do not emphasize this, but if you click the show code button, you can see the language behind the blocks.

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